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MALIK ABDUL ALIM v. BYRNE

July 8, 1980

Malik Abdul ALIM, Plaintiff,
v.
Brendan T. BYRNE, et al., Defendants; Malik Abdul ALIM, Plaintiff, v. Brendan T. BYRNE, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DEBEVOISE

I. Procedural Background

Civil Actions Nos. 76-0499, 76-1661 and 77-0058 each involve claims that during the course of their imprisonment at Trenton State Prison the plaintiffs were deprived of their religious liberties protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

 Malik Abdul Alim filed Civil Actions Nos. 76-0499 and 76-1661. In these actions he claims that two organizations of which he was the spiritual leader (United Against Racism, Discrimination and Social Injustice (UARDSI) and its affiliate, the Interdenominational Worship Temple of God) were and are religious bodies, that the Trenton State Prison authorities have discriminated against them by refusing to allow them to engage in congregate worship, by refusing to let inmates who are members of UARDSI meet with their spiritual leader, Dr. Alim, by failing to provide sufficient nutritious foods as alternatives to pork products, which UARDSI members cannot eat, and by forbidding UARDSI to purchase and sell to inmates food, such as bean pies, which the member inmates needed in order to supplement the prison diet.

 Class action certification was granted in the two actions instituted by Dr. Alim and he was designated by an order of the Court entered January 12, 1977 as the representative of "all those inmates at Trenton State Prison who are or may become members of the Interdenominational Worship Temple of God". On February 28, 1977 these two actions, which previously had been consolidated, were further consolidated with Civil Action No. 77-0058, an action instituted by Emory X. Johnson (now known as Wali D. Muhammad). That action also raised issues concerning religious freedoms. An attorney was appointed to represent the class representative, Dr. Alim.

 When the matter was called for trial, in the presence of both Dr. Alim (who was represented by his attorney) and Mr. Muhammad (who appeared pro se), it appeared that there were differences in the positions of the two plaintiffs and Mr. Muhammad stated that he did not wish to be bound by the verdict in Dr. Alim's cases. Therefore, with the consent of the two plaintiffs and the defendants, the Court ordered that Civil Action No. 77-0058 be severed from the other two actions.

 After this severance there remained as defendants the following persons, sued individually and in the following capacities: Brendan T. Byrne, Governor of the State of New Jersey; Ann Klein, Commissioner of the Department of Institutions and Agencies; William H. Fauver, Director of Correction and Parole of the Department of Institutions and Agencies; Richard A. Seidl, Supervisor of the three adult prisons in the Department of Institutions and Agencies; Alan R. Hoffman, Superintendent of Trenton State Prison; Robert S. Hatrak, Superintendent of the Rahway State Prison; Alfred Richardson, Correction Officer at Trenton State Prison; Anthony C. Turner, Supervisor of Education at Trenton State Prison; Gary J. Hilton, Superintendent of Trenton State Prison; Calvin E. Neubert, Assistant Superintendent at Trenton State Prison; Gildo L. DePaolis, Chief Deputy Keeper of Trenton State Prison; Stanley Samuelson, Director of Professional Services of Trenton State Prison; and Nicholas Gregorio, Supervisor of the mailroom at Trenton State Prison.

 The trial before a jury commenced on June 5, 1980. At the close of plaintiff's case the defendants moved to dismiss the entire case on the grounds that plaintiff had failed to establish that UARDSI and the Interdenominational Worship Temple of God were religious bodies. The motion was denied on the grounds that there was evidence on the basis of which the jury could conclude that the members of those related organizations formed and participated in them in the exercise of their religious beliefs, and that the prison authorities had unreasonably interfered with the exercise of religious freedoms protected by the First Amendment. The defendants also moved to dismiss as to each defendant on the ground that there was no evidence that he was responsible for any deprivation of constitutional rights of the members of the class. The motion was granted with respect to defendants Byrne, Klein, Hatrak, Richardson, Turner, Neubert, DePaolis and Gregorio. The motion was denied with respect to defendants Fauver, Seidl, Hoffman, Hilton and Samuelson.

 The remaining defendants presented their evidence and the matter was submitted to the jury. The jury was unable to agree upon a verdict and thereafter the parties agreed to waive a jury and submit the matter to the Court for determination on the trial record and briefs and arguments of the parties.

 A. The Facts

 In 1975, plaintiff, Malik Abdul Alim, was an inmate at Trenton State Prison (TSP). He took courses sponsored by Mercer County Community College and by Edison College. He had studied Islamic religion for many years and asserts that he speaks Arabic and a little Spanish. His title of "Doctor" was conferred by UARDSI, the organization of which he is now spiritual leader and which will be described below. He was released from prison on parole in November or December, 1977, but remains the leader of UARDSI and its affiliate, the Interdenominational Worship Temple of God.

 It appears that Dr. Alim organized UARDSI in 1975. Its certificate of incorporation and various constitutions and statements of organization and principles are included among the trial exhibits. The aim of UARDSI and of the Interdenominational Worship Temple of God was and is to protect all people from racism, discrimination and social injustice, to conduct religious services at which believers in God of all religious persuasions can come together and which will preach "equal love for all, equal respect for all, and equal faith in all". (Exhibit P-7.)

 Organizationally, UARDSI had a strict hierarchical structure. It was led by an executive president (or executive minister) under whom there were an executive vice-president, an executive secretary, and an executive treasurer. A security officer was provided for in the constitution, whose duties included providing safety for the organization and its officers. An investigation officer was designated "to check on everybody within the organization". It is provided in the constitution that "The executive president ... has the final word in all organizational affairs or functions" and that the executive officials "will make the rules and regulations that all members will obey and abide by 100% percent or suffer the consequences". There was provision for senior members, junior members, associate members and anonymous members (Exhibit P-6; Exhibit D-7). From UARDSI's inception Dr. Alim has served as executive president or executive minister.

 Although the documents establishing and governing UARDSI suggest that it was an organization which recognized all religions having a theistic basis, the testimony made it clear that UARDSI is essentially a Muslim religion, which respects and tolerates other religions but which does not bring adherents of other faiths into full UARDSI membership privileges.

 For about six months prior to October 1975 UARDSI operated with remarkable freedom within TSP. A room was made available for weekly worship attended by approximately fifty members. Dr. Alim testified that at that time there were fifty active members of UARDSI and perhaps one hundred associate members.

 Under the pass system which then prevailed in the prison, Dr. Alim had permission to travel through the prison to consult with members of his organization. He maintained a checking account in which the members' contributions were deposited. The organization ordered food from outside the prison, bean pies apparently having been a favorite item, which members could purchase to supplement the prison diet.

 In October 1975 UARDSI's various privileges were suddenly terminated. Congregate worship was no longer permitted. The pass system by which Dr. Alim could visit UARDSI members throughout the prison was eliminated. Inmate organizations were no longer allowed to collect dues or other payments from other inmates and were told to surrender checkbooks ...


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